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From time to time I lead worship at the Village Church in NYC. It’s mostly like emcee-ing the service (in the way that I’m introducing different segments and making announcements), but there are two portions of the service where my speaking duties are weighty enough that I like to have some thoughts prepared.
Below is one of those remarks that I felt went particularly well for our Call to Worship (Saturday Night Live fans think: “cold open”).
8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices;
together they shout for joy.
When the LORD returns to Zion,
they will see it with their own eyes.
9 Burst into songs of joy together,
you ruins of Jerusalem,
for the LORD has comforted his people,
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The watchmen of whom Isaiah is speaking were set on towers, posted at intervals to give the earliest notice of the approach of any messenger with tidings. The emphasis of the text here isâ€”as James Fausset Brown puts modestlyâ€”more forcible, exclamatory even, in the Hebrew.
But, we’re sophisticated New Yorkers, so we don’t get elated about, like, anything. Earnestness in this city is a sign of weakness, that you haven’t got it all put together.
Well, I find my children instructive because they lack my useless sophistication.
Last Christmas, for example, my daughter received a gift that was to her the apogee of awesomeâ€”bringing together her three great loves: bath time, dolls, and princessesâ€”a princess Ariel mermaid doll whose tail, when you poured cold water over it, changed color from green to purple.
After I pried Ariel loose from the wire ties and cardboard packaging, Dahlia immediately wanted to try out the color change. We went into the bathroom, ran the cold water in the tub and Dahlia tossed Ariel in. Sure enough, to Dahlia’s delight, the tail changed colors.
This experiment elicited one of my most treasured moments with Dahlia: when she saw Ariel’s tail change color, she hopped up and down next to the bathtub and shouted without restraint, “I have a new Ariel doll!”
This is the kind of elation the Isaiah is proclaiming. Coming at the end of a long, awkward, almost desperate silence.
Have you been watchful for the Lord? Has the grit and dust of your week made you search the horizons for hope?
Then be comforted, for you have been redeemed, dear Village Church. We come to rejoice in the salvation of Jesus Christ that we have seen, are seeing, and will see. This is the Ariel doll in the bathtub. Let’s stand and burst into songs of joy together.
We’re delighted to share this
Christmas New Year’s Valentine’s Day letter with you, just a little later than we originally intended.
On the final day of 2010, we found ourselves hurtling along the dark highways of Pennsylvania on our way to visit family, giving us some much-needed time to nap and to reflect on this past year. (Ken did the reflecting while everyone else napped.)
On March 29th, one day before his big sister’s birthday, we were introduced to the newest member of our family, Joel Tiernan Walkerâ€”our first boy, our first home birth. Mom and baby did great, and we loved the experience of being home together as a family, with a skilled and experienced midwife close at hand.
It seems strange to share with you news of his birth now almost a year later; itâ€™s hard to remember a time before Joel was a part of our family. We’re grateful to report that Joel is a happy little guy, who is eager to eat and sleeps well. He’s always just a moment away from giving us his trademark goofy grin, especially for Mama.
The year with him has flown by: sleeping (almost) through the night, waving and cooing, eating solid food, even sprouting teeth! Joel isn’t crawling yetâ€”heâ€™s content to let his sister rush a toy to his side when he gets crankyâ€”but we expect the new year will bringÂ that development any day now.
In addition to becoming a big sister, Dahlia also had a number of milestones last year: kicking the pacifier habit, getting her first professional haircut, celebrating her third birthday, and embarking on her first year of preschool. Along the way, DJ transformed from a toddler into a little girl.
Her stuffed Elmo, whom Dahlia had loved since she was in diapers, was traded in for an entourage of three-inch-tall Disney princesses, who perpetually provoke, tease, ally, double-cross, and (inexplicably) marry each other in the wild narratives of Dahliaâ€™s playâ€”essentially playing out a daily episode of Jersey Shore right on our coffee table. Clearly, sheâ€™s already preparing for high school.
Our daughter has taken ownership of her role as a big sister and is eager to help out around the house. She’s vey patient, tenderhearted, and values order in her life. For her first parent-teacher conference at preschool, her teacher informed us that Dahlia used to cry when other children get in trouble because she doesn’t want them to “break my teacher’s heart.” On the frequent occasion Dahlia tells us that some children at school don’t listen, we remind her that there’s no need to worry: God is watching over her.
Sarah continues to grow as an urban mom, filling her Facebook account with the joys of raising an infant and a preschooler. Her days start with walking the children several blocks to Dahliaâ€™s preschool in Newark and are often full with helping manage an organic food cooperative, commuting to New York to attend a momsâ€™ Bible study in Greenwich Village, or lining up dog training clients for the nights and weekends when Ken can be home with the kids.
Joelâ€™s birth this year has given Sarah the opportunity to immerse herself in the world of cloth diapering, enjoying the satisfaction of environmental stewardship and diaper fashions. Sarahâ€™s savvy with the growing cottage industry of cloth diapering has kept costs down as she scouts for deals and sells used diapers online, the demand for which never ceases to amaze Ken.
We celebrated Sarahâ€™s thirtieth birthday this year with a surprise party at our beloved Chocolate Factory apartment buildingâ€”which also marked our second year here. Seeing Sarah enter her thirties with her usual poise and grace was a reminder of how she is a woman of patience and wisdom beyond her years.
Ken reached his fifth anniversary at his workplace, a financial firm in Manhattan, getting aÂ feel for what it takes to succeed in business in New York City. Work there hasnâ€™t been as difficult as it was at the worst of the economic crisis (overheard from an analyst: â€œthe end of the world is priced into these stocksâ€), and it offers the chance to build a career and keep us near family, friends, and a church community we love.
Earlier this year, Ken reached the halfway point of his three-year term on the session (kind of like a board of directors) at the Village Church in Greenwich Village. Church leadership has been stretching Ken, pushing him to take the burdens of others upon himself and grow in compassion, discipline, and faith. We believe deeply in the mission of our little church in Manhattan, and it is a joy for our family to give to this work. We hope for Godâ€™s increase in our midst 2011.
The triple challenge of family, career, and church has sidelined Kenâ€™s entrepreneurial and journalistic plans for his local blog, the Daily Newarker. It was tough to set aside such a fun project; the blog had reached a level of respectabilityâ€”having been featured in the Star Ledger and garnering Ken some radio interviews. Our optimism for our beloved city remains despite the silence, and Ken aspires to a more sustainable creative outlet in the new year.
Thanks for reading. We pray this letter finds you well in 2011, and hope you keep in touch.
Joel, Dahlia, Sarah and Ken